There are about a hundred things that we love about London. A city rich in history, culture, and architecture, people are living the everyday contemporary life in this place where modernity and history are a perfect blend. Old buildings are preserved and maintained for today's everyday purpose. It's the 21st Century and yet history still exudes itself in the gorgeous architecture of the buildings. Walking the streets of London one sees the reflection of what a melting pot the city is while maintaining one's cultural and ethnic identity at the same time. It is incredibly cosmopolitan.

One of our favorite things is that the city keeps its world-class museums free-of-charge which makes it extremely easy on visitors' pockets. We only wished we had more time to spend at the museums but otherwise we were very glad to set foot into the Tate Modern, The British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, and Victoria & Albert Museum.

National Potrait Gallery

1. Mayfair/Marylebone
Our highlights of Mayfair: 1) Murano (a Gordon Ramsay restaurant with 1 Michelin star) for my birthday lunch, 2) Connaught Bar which made it to the 10 Best Bars in the World by Food and Wine Magazine. We're subscribers to this magazine and are always making dog ears out of the pages of our magazines in order to bookmark useful tips like this when we travel to the cities featured. Mayfair was beautiful, decadent, and rich. Bespoke suit shops, retail, and restaurants abound.

Royal Arcade, Bond Street
Oxford Street
Located right by Mayfair is Marylebone. Strolling along Marylebone High Street felt a little more carefree and has more of a neighborhood feel to it with cute little boutiques, bakery, bookstore, to name a few. We later realized that Marylebone High Street was voted as the best street in London-- "a haven in the middle of a frantic city."

Marylebone High Street

2. Covent Garden
Pubs, restaurants, shops, arts and crafts market dominate Covent Garden. Here there is Neal Yard's Dairy which is any cheese lover's dream. We walked in and the entire store was like a freezer or a very cold fridge to keep the cheeses in an optimum condition. They have another location at Borough Market. Covent Garden was also where we've had our best dining experience which was at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon. With 2 Michelin stars, this place completed our London dining experience.


Neal's Yard Dairy
3. Soho
Soho is stylish. If retail therapy on Oxford Street isn't already enough, veer off Oxford and find yourself along Carnaby Street, a pedestrian-only street. Pubs abound. But then again, we found a pub at almost every corner of England. We made our way to Soho Square and how exciting, the sun was out. London always creates the impression of overcast skies and wet dreary weather, but we had sunshine and it made everyone happy even though the sunshine did not stay.

Enjoying the rare London sun
I also especially like the fact that I can walk into any pub and order a half pint of beer if I didn't want a full pint. Why can't I do that in the States? Once in a while I like to enjoy a half order of beer. Beers are also cheap over there, compared to the States. And while we're still on beer, we noticed that at anytime we walked into a pub we saw men in suits having a pint even at 10am (yeah, no kidding) or at 4pm.

Half pint, if you wish

4. Borough Market
Lovers of fresh produce and food retail, we hit up Borough Market and it only made us wonder why didn't we have one like this all year round in Chicago. Farmer's Markets in Chicago are only found in the summer. We've been spoiled after visiting Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne, Australia and Borough Market. They have made us feel that no Farmer's Market in Chicago can compare to these two great markets especially when it comes to variety of vendors and stalls. At Borough Market, there are baked goods, pastries, cheeses, meats, seafood, cider, vegetables, fruits, and ethnic cooked foods. We each had a couple of freshly shucked oysters from one of the seafood vendors. Then we hit up a sausage stall that served wild boar and ostrich. Next I made a mandatory stop at a Middle Eastern sweets stall and picked up some baklava (when it comes to baklava, it is mandatory for me. I love it this much).

Borough Market
Cow heart tomatoes
Pie mania

Right outside Borough Market was also where we had arguably the best coffee ever: Monmouth Coffee. They have another location at Covent Garden. Our latte was absolutely creamy and rich. We love our Nespresso lattes which we have the luxury of making at home with our Nespresso machine, but Monmouth Coffee took it to another level. Every sip was savored. This is definitely a must-try.

Arguably the best coffee ever

5. West End: Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square
This district spells entertainment. It is alot like how many people envision London to be. When the sun is down, the streets and theaters in the entertainment district turn glitzy and glamorous. People are everywhere. It was a great reminder to how metropolitan London is. If not walking on the streets, we saw them sitting around the memorial fountain at the road junction of Piccadilly Circus which is also the site of huge advertisement signboards, which incidentally reminds me alot about Times Square in Manhattan. Or, they were seen relaxing at Trafalgar Square.

Shaftesbury Ave

Trafalgar Square

 6. Camden Town
We hopped off the Camden subway and found ourselves in an entirely different world. Sunday was clearly the best day to visit as we saw people flock to the streets with their bohemian or gothic style clothing. Tiny shops abound with a huge selection of extremely affordable clothing if you're into the style. There are six markets in the area; some are outdoor and some are covered. We wandered around while absorbing the vibrant colors of merchandise on displays. People watching in itself was interesting. Camden Town has so much character that defines what it is. It reminded me about why I like living in Chicago: several neighborhoods make up the city of Chicago and each neighborhood has its own character and personality that defines the neighborhood.

Other places worth noting:

Cadogan Arms: Runner up for Best Gastropub 2009/2010 in London by Time Out Magazine. Thanks to Dave, Nat, Kay, and Dash who brought us there. Located in Chelsea.

Tayyabs: Best Indian food we've had. Ever. Thanks to Alden who brought us there. We made reservations and nevertheless had to wait to get seated but it was worth it. It was a weeknight and the place was bustling. I repeat, best Indian food we've had. Located in Whitechapel.

Primrose Hill: Excellent 360 degrees view of the city.

Some of our favorite British grub (because what good is a trip without awesome food?):

English Breakfast: We really made it a point to have traditional English breakfast before starting our day. Grilled tomatoes, English bacon (which actually has meat in it unlike American bacon that is comprised of 90% fat and 10% meat), black and white pudding (sausages), eggs, and baked beans. Before hurrying off to catch the Changing-of-the-Guard at Buckingham Palace, we managed a quick breakfast at a nearby cafe that actually served breakfast with chips (fries).

Steak and kidney pie: In between our trip to Victoria & Albert Museum and Harrods in Knightsbridge, we lunched and had a pint at a pub. I'm very much a pie person and loved every bit of the steak and kidney pie. The crust was flaky and upon stabbing my fork into the pie, a waft of steaming delicious smell from the gravy comes up. The beef and kidney pieces are in the delicious smelling gravy. And to top it all, there was an additional serving of gravy if the amount of gravy inside the pie wasn't already enough. 

Fish and chips: It is debatable where to get the best fish and chips in London. It's almost like someone asking us where to get the best pizza in Chicago. We have our personal favorite but different people will have different opinions about this. In London we've tried fish and chips from immigrant-owned restaurants where customers mostly do carryout (by the way, you can dip your chips in curry...yum) as well as from pubs. We liked them all.

Bangers and Yorkshire pudding: Yorkshire pudding is really something that I've come to like alot. Made of flours, eggs, and roast drippings and then baked in the oven until it pops up from the pan, the texture is light and fluffy if it is made well. Cover it with gravy and I'm all set to be happy.

English breakfast
Steak and kidney pie
Fish and chips
Bangers and Yorkshire pudding

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